The Energy Department is moving forward with a long-delayed rule that would require new and renovated federal buildings to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2030, a proposal that critics have said would be impossible to implement.
A supplemental proposal, made public by the department Oct. 10, comes after legislation (S. 2262) that would have blocked the rule from taking effect and increased efficiency requirements for federal buildings stalled in the Senate this year.
The rule, which was mandated by the 2007 energy law, could cost more than $1 billion in increased construction and energy costs, according to an Energy Department analysis. It would require new federal buildings and federal buildings undergoing renovations that cost more than $2.5 million to phase out the use of fossil fuel sources by 2030.
Opponents of the rule, which include the American Gas Association, say it is technologically unfeasible, and the Energy Department has yet to finalize a proposed version of the rule issued in 2010, the year the fossil fuel phaseout was supposed to begin.
The Energy Department, in the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, said it “received a number of comments expressing concern and encouraging DOE to re-examine the proposed regulations.”
‘Downward Adjustment' Proposed
Among the changes proposed by the department is establishment of a petition process to seek a “downward adjustment” in the phaseout requirements and inclusion of combined heat and power as an allowable fuel source, according to the rule.
This is a much more serious attempt to apply the law. There are a bunch of questions they really did not address the first time around,” Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser, for the Washington-based nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said in an interview. “I certainly think they have addressed a lot of issues that have been raised.”
The Energy Department has estimated that the rule, which is required by Section 433 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2007, would save 1.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2030.
The Senate compromise to block the rule from being implemented, which was drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and incorporated into efficiency legislation introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would have extended current efficiency targets for federal buildings from a 30 percent reduction in energy use by 2015 to a 45 percent reduction by 2020.
The compromise split the environmental community, with groups such as the Sierra Club, the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Institute of Architects saying they would pull support for the Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill if it was included.
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